Tag Archives: Charles Dickens

Facts. Hard Times,Gradgrind and The Wall

“In this life, we want nothing but Facts,sir, nothing but Facts”. (5)

“Girl Number 20, unable to define a horse” (7)

Sissy could of course defined a horse, but it would not have been in the terms that Gradgrind would have liked to hear. She would have said that they are magnificient creatures with shiny coats that have a loving streak and could be encouraged (not trained), to performed tasks when they so loved their master.

But Gradgrind, who I would think had no real reason to be in the classroom, and the aptly named M’Choakumchild wanted only facts in this chapter of Hard Times entitled ‘Murdering the Innocents’. Mr M’Chakumchild would strangle every bit of creativity and playfulness out of every pupil in this utilitarian world.

When Sissy Jupe told Gradgrind that her father “belongs to the horseriding, ” she was in fact talking about the trick riding of horses in a circus, for the entertainment of people. Gradgrind was adamant that he must have a more nobler, more useful profession, that of a “veterinary surgeon, a farrier and a horsebreaker”. Imagination and playfulness killed (or at least stunned), mission accomplished.

In this extended version of the filmclip of The Wall, by Pink Floyd, we see the master admonishing the boy in the class for reading poetry. Again the arts, imagination, and playfulness are killed.

The education of children was purely for the results.Little has changed. Education is not for the growing of the mind or extending the imagination, but for the testing of the mind and comparing it to others who were taught the same thing. Children are taught to compete. Who can remember the lessons taught, be compliant to the rules given and tow the line the best? It is really not for the betterment of the pupils but for the advancement of the teachers. The teachers and schools can show how well they do their jobs, and therefore compete with the funding of the almighty dollar. Think NAPLAN (for international readers, please google it).

Teachers, mentors, parents and others need to produce innovative thinkers of our children. To just be thinking along the same lines will not cut it in a world that is dying, in a world where things always need to be done better. We need to teach children to think more for themselves, to explore, to use their imagination.

I hope that in the future we might encourage children to ask why, and when they do, we will not answer with the classic “Because I said so”.






Filed under 19th Century Literature

NSW Art Gallery Visit

For my 19th Century Literature class, our Professor, Michael Griffith, took  us of a tour of The Art Gallery of NSW to look at art in the 19th Century. It is interesting to see how the art of the period reflects the literature, or visa versa. In fact it seems all of the arts are in cahoots with each other, because if we look at the music of the period, we can see the temperament reflected in the melodies written at the time as well.

“Edward Elgar and Charles Villiers Stanford as quintessential English composers of the Victorian era, (Think ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ although Elgar wasn’t responsible for someone else putting words to his “Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1”.) If you want “dark” and weighty, go for Elgar’s Symphony no. 2 – a superb work that doesn’t get heard enough. For “Romanticism” I’d suggest Brahms or Dvorak, any works. Or Smetana’s ‘Moldau'” from Richard Peter Maddox, Emeritus Professor of Music, UNE.

(Richard)Peter and I are good friends and we often discuss music through the ages.

Describe the impact on you of ONE of the paintings viewed on our tour- talk about how it has opened up your understanding of the key issues in the period we are studying!

The painting that had the most impact on my, and with which I could relate both ‘Hard Times’ by Dickens and ‘Silas Marner’ by Elliot, was ‘The Widower’ by Sir Samuel Luke Fildes.

Fildes grew up an orphan and was adopted by his grandmother who was a social reformer of the time. After Art school, he shared the concerns of his grandmother and went to work for the Graphic magazine. It was while there that Dickens saw Fildes work and was so impressed that Fildes actually went on to be illustrator for the Charles Dickens book ‘Mystery of Edwin Drood’.

Fildes had a real connection to the working class people of this era. He liked to paint the working class people of his time as a way to highlighting the problems in his world.

‘The Widower’ connected me with Silas Marner in the way that here is a single man, advanced in age, trying his best to care for children. Silas Marner also cared for “his daughter” as well as he could. The Girl in Silas had also been left motherless.

silas marner


Motherless looks to be a template for the widower, with the same man and child in both pictures.

I am only part way through ‘Hard Times’ and while I can see elements of Hard Times in the painting, especially where Stephen Blackpool and his beloved Rachael are caring for Stephen’s poor wife.

Stephen Blackpool and Rachael

Fildes became a very well known and wealthy artist, painting portraits of Society’s finest including Royalty from England and Europe. He was knighted for his work in 1906, but never forgot the working class.When commissioned by the Tate gallery in 1890 to paint a picture, he recalled  the death of his first son to tuberculosis in 1877 and painted ‘The Doctor’ as a response to his grief.

The Doctor

Fildes died in 1918.


Many thanks to artmagick


and Google images for the pictures.



Filed under 19th Century Literature, art, literature

Artful Dodger

Artful Dodger

Pencil sketch

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27/11/2013 · 10:13 pm